The Perfect Lie
I remember being 15 years old, sitting in Sunday School class. The teacher had just passed out a piece of paper with the question “Where do you see yourself in 15 years?” Easy. This was my list:
- Successfully graduated from college.
- Married to the man of my dreams.
- Be the mother to 4–5 kids, each two years apart.
- Living in my beautiful custom home.
- Running a successful business from home (just when the kids sleep).
- I’ll read my scriptures every morning right after my 5:00 a.m. workout (training for triathlons and marathons) before the kids get up.
- We’ll have family scripture study and prayer every day.
- I’ll make healthy meals every night and take extras to my neighbors or those in need.
- I’ll finally have stopped eating sugar and carbs altogether and will have conquered skinny.
I sat back in my chair, completely satisfied with the long list I had just made. I took a deep breath, dreaming of what it would feel like to be living a life where I felt enough, had enough, and did enough—a life that seemed, at that moment, full of contentment and happiness.
Little did I know, that day in Sunday School I bought into one of Satan’s greatest lies—the perfect lie.
There was nothing I wanted more than to feel enough and be enough. I wanted to be like my Savior; I wanted to live a successful life and be a good Christian, student, sister, daughter, and friend.
However, at a young age my thinking was distorted and my reality skewed. You see, I was a perfectionist, chasing a life without flaw, an unattainable place that I thought existed, a place that if somehow I worked hard enough and long enough I could finally arrive at. But no matter how hard I tried, how much I did, how much I lived by my good Christian checklist of praying, reading my scriptures, and having faith, I didn’t feel happy. I felt stressed. I felt guilty that I never had enough time for anything that I was doing, guilty that I wasn’t measuring up. I didn’t feel peace. In fact, I felt like an utter failure.
The gospel of Jesus Christ was supposed to bring hope and peace to my life. So why wasn’t it working for me?
In my efforts to be like Christ, I lived by this math equation:
If I’m more patient, more forgiving, more loving, more charitable, more prayerful (and the list could go on and on), I can be like Christ. Christlike is the goal. Sounds good, right? Except it’s not. It’s the perfect lie. It’s Satan’s equation that he dupes us into living.
I learned that during one of the darkest points of my life, when my life literally crumbled. My husband lost his job, I was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, and because of those illnesses, expanding our family wasn’t happening. I had to walk away from my business that I had poured my heart into for four years, and on top of all of that, I found myself in the grips of debilitating anxiety and depression. The perfect life that I had given my entire soul to keeping together was literally falling to pieces right in front of my eyes.
Everything that I ever was, or had been, was no longer there. I was a college athlete who couldn’t even walk around the block. I was a creative graphic designer and business owner who couldn’t find enough light to do anything creative. I was a good mom who constantly took my son on outings while capturing the happy moments of our day, and now I was the mom with only one child who couldn’t even get up long enough to make her child breakfast. Everything that I ever thought I was or that I had prided myself in being was gone.
I remember dragging myself to church one Sunday; the opening song started and the floodgates opened. Tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t breathe. The heartache was too much. I immediately stood up and fled to my car, where I locked myself in and sobbed. The anxiety was more than I could handle, and the worthlessness I felt was unbearable.
The tears wouldn’t stop. I was miserable, broken, and shattered.
Who was I if I wasn’t everything I did? How could I have worth while sitting in bed day after day? Who was I as a wife, a mother, and a woman when my body didn’t allow me to do the things that a wife, a mother, and a woman should do?
I had a testimony that my Savior’s Atonement was real. I believed His miracles; I believed Him when He said that all things were possible to him that believeth. But in my most broken state, I wasn’t sure how to use His power.
I needed answers. So, in my darkest hour, I had two choices. I could stay in the mental anguish that I was experiencing, or I could put God’s promises to the test.
So I did. I asked in a way I had never done before. I began to seek, opening my scriptures not to check something off of my Christian checklist, but to find answers, to find hope, and to find my Savior.
The following month I engulfed myself in Christ’s words. I studied His life. I read the New Testament. I watched beautiful Bible videos about His life and read talks by the leaders of my church who I believed knew Christ and knew how to implement His power in their lives.
It wasn’t easy at first, but the more I read, the more I wanted to. As I did, Christ literally became alive in my life. Stories that I had read while growing up started to become real. They weren’t these unseen, incomprehensible miracles, but they became tangible lessons that started having meaning in my life today.
When 5,000 people needed to be fed and the only food available was a meager five loaves of bread and two fish, the Lord didn’t say it wasn’t enough. He didn’t look away or condemn. No! He took what they had and used His power to make it enough to feed thousands.
When those at the wedding feast wanted wine and there was none, Christ didn’t judge or ask who had planned so poorly. He told them to fill the stone jugs with what they had, which was water, and then to trust Him. And He turned the water into wine, and not just wine, but the finest wine they had had all night.
He made shortcomings not just adequate, or enough, but more than enough.
As I studied Jesus’s life, I realized this was the continuous theme in His entire ministry: taking the weakest things of this earth and using His power to transform them into something miraculous.
Christ never asked us to give more than we have to give. Rather He asks, pleads, and invites us to learn of Him, come to Him, trust Him, and let Him make us more than we are.
That brings me back to one of Satan’s greatest lies—the perfect lie.
Did Christ say, “Be ye perfect, even as I am?” Yes, He did. But He never said we needed to be perfect today, tomorrow, or even in this life, and He definitely never said we needed to be perfect all by ourselves, without Christ.
You see, Satan’s perfect lie takes one simple truth, “Be ye perfect, even as I am,” and twists it until we’re convinced that we need to live a life trying to be equal to Christ.
Satan tells us we must be more, do more, have more. But on our own, could anything we put next to ourselves ever equal Christ? No!
And here’s where Satan gets even more tricky. Once he has dialed us into this math equation of me plus more equals Christlike, he takes Christ out of the equation completely. He gets us to believe in and chase equations like:
And before you know it, often without even realizing it, these alternative equations suck the life out of us and suffocate the Savior out of our lives.
The perfect lie had me believing that it was up to me to change. That if I could just work a little harder, do a little more, be a little more disciplined, do more, be more—that somehow I would eventually get there. That if I could just try harder I would be better.
But this is false! This is the lie!
Nowhere in the scriptures does Christ say that our efforts are inadequate. Never does He say, “If you don’t work hard enough, you’ll never be enough.”
No. His truth and His invitation is “Come unto me, for my grace is sufficient.”
Christ’s truth, I discovered, is more like this equation:
When we put Christ in His proper place, when we come to Him and get to know Him, there is nothing that He can’t equal us to. With Christ, we can be kinder. With Christ, we will feel loved. With Christ, we will always have a friend. With Christ, we will be happy.
For with Christ we are enough. We are powerful. We are more.
My life of striving for perfection wasn’t about what Christ could make me; it was about what I thought I needed to be in order to be enough. It was about glorying in being busy while worshipping checklists. There was no room for error, no room for flaw, not enough time, not enough talent, and never any grace.
When God let my life crumble, it wasn’t because He didn’t love me. He let my life crumble because He wanted me back. He wanted to teach me. He wanted to change me.
Fifteen years ago I made a list of what I thought my life would look like. Fifteen years later, my life looks nothing like that list. I’m still broken. I still have health challenges. And some days my life feels like a real mess.
But now, instead of chasing perfection, I’m chasing Jesus. And I’ve never been happier.
Learn more about Tiffany’s journey of faith and hope on Mormon Channel.
Tiffany Webster is a writer, blogger, and graphic designer who believes in finding joy, embracing the imperfect, and wearing yoga pants. She lives in southern Utah with the man who give her wings to fly and their one perfect son who makes her world go round.